Despite the sensational title of Benefits by the Sea, the Channel 5 documentary presents quite a positive view of the residents of Jaywick, officially Britain's most deprived town. Those living in the former holiday chalets at Brooklands — the poorest part of Jaywick — are struggling with poor housing, rubbish roads and street lights that go off at midnight. In the first two episodes we've met Fred an ex-gangster who just wants to be with his cats in an unheated caravan; Carl who is trying to be a good dad to his two daughters but has lost his benefits because he can't read the forms; alcoholic Disco Dave who drinks "Jaywick champagne" (cheap cider from the corner shop) but is trying to go into rehab and being helped by Boo, a recovering alcoholic herself who manages to set up a Jaywick soup kitchen; and Naomi and Stu, a young couple who were previously homeless in Southampton.
Most heroic is Councillor Don Casey, who spends his time trying to help Fred get heating for his caravan and get lighting after midnight following a horrific machete attack (the residents succeed in getting it turned on until 1am). Yes there are some toe-rags and violent offenders, but most of the residents seem to want to better their lives and are not content claiming benefits, and the impression is that need help rather than censure. And there's always the beach which is a fine diversion from everyone's problems. With the right investment and government aid (the houses only cost 50k) there could still be hope for Jaywick.